Messel Travel Bursary recipient, Barbora Balonova, reports from Orlando

09 April 2019

Barbara Balonova was awarded a Messel Travel Bursary to attend the ACS Spring 2019 National Meeting and Exposition, in Orlando, Florida, USA. Here she tells us about the awe-inspiring talk by a Noble Prize winner, the presentation that she gave and how she led a discussion with undergraduate students sharing her experience of grad school.

‘I am currently in the final year of my PhD at the Department of Chemistry, University of New Brunswick in Fredericton, Canada. My PhD project is focused on synthesis and colour tuning of heteroleptic iridium complexes under the supervision of Dr Barry Blight. I was very delighted that I could attend the ACS National Meeting, where chemistry professionals meet to share experiences, ideas and technical knowledge. This meeting provides an excellent opportunity to share your research and connect with the world’s largest scientific society. Thanks to SCI and the Messel Travel Bursary I was able to join the 257th ACS National Meeting and Exposition in Florida which was titled as Chemistry for New Frontiers. It was my first ACS meeting and the largest conference I have ever attended during my graduate studies.

‘The conference took place from 31st to April 4th March 2019 in the Orange County Convention Centre in sunny Orlando. The five-day conference programme was filled with many interesting talks from different areas of chemistry and often I wished I could be in two places at the same time! The list of speakers was very engaging and included also multiple Nobel Prize winners – Barry Sharpless, Fraser Stoddard and Frances Arnold. I managed to attend Professor Arnold’s talk where she was talking about Innovation by Evolution and how to bring new chemistry to life. She is a very inspirational and engaging presenter and definitely a great role model for all women in STEM. I also had the chance to meet Professor Sharpless, who won the Noble Prize for Chemistry in 2001. I had a quick chat with him during the session organised by C&EN magazine and managed to get a photo! His excitement for science and the way he talks about chemistry was leaving the audience, including myself, in awe.

‘For this meeting I was accepted to give a talk about my research in the Organometallic Chemistry session as part of the Applications to Materials & Polymer Science symposium. I felt very honoured to be able to discuss my PhD research with the international community, which was a very valuable experience for me at this stage of my career. My talk was entitled Influence of Second Sphere H-Bonding Interactions on Photoluminescent Iridium Complexes and despite the early time (I have got the 8.30-8.50 am slot) it was well received with the audience.

‘I tried to visit as many sessions as possible and listen to talks relevant to my research but also to see presentations from other fields. Just to point out a few examples, I really enjoyed the talks dealing with Materials for Energy Applications, Mechanochemistry and Molecular Recognition & Self-Assembly.

‘Prior to the meeting, I was also selected to be a discussion leader for a workshop organised by the American Society of Chemistry, focusing on the Experience in Grad School. My role was to lead a discussion with multiple undergraduate students that are considering doing further studies towards MSc and PhD degrees. The topics included multiple themes, for example how to choose a research advisor or what does it take to succeed in graduate school. It was a great opportunity for me to share my experience and advice that I gathered in the last 4 years of my PhD degree. Attendance at this conference has also allowed me to attend a workshop organized by ACS in order to improve my science communication skills, which I found very beneficial as I am a big fan of SciComm (#ChemTwitter)!

‘The Expo part, with hundreds of exhibitors, including publishers, chemical companies, and suppliers represented a great opportunity to talk directly to the technical staff - I found this very helpful as I was able to gain very valuable information (Big Thank you to Ian from Edinburgh Instruments) and address some troubleshooting for my future research work.

‘Taking part in the 257th ACS meeting was a wonderful opportunity and I hope that in the future I will be able to attend such a meeting again. It was a wonderful place for networking and building new connections. I enjoyed the experience and felt honoured to be able to represent our Department of Chemistry, UNB and share my research with the international audience.

‘I would like to thank to my supervisor Dr Barry Blight for the enormous support during my PhD degree as well as the SCI Messel Travel Award for the funding, which enabled me to take part in this wonderful meeting.’

Barbora Balonova
PhD student
University of New Brunswick

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